Communication is key for CRHS speech competitors

Large group speech contestants are, front from left, Hailey Peterson, Noelle Hines, Anna Berns, Isabella Berns, Dustin Kelly, Josie Broxson, and Katie Zimmer; back row, Amanda Hansel, Janelle Burr, Alex Simon, Kelly Hawkins, and Maysie Scherer. Not pictured are Blake Bolsinger, Rebecca Scherer, Claire Friday, and Carrigan Moser. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

In what extra curricular activity can students perform as radio news announcers, mimes, and screenwriters? Clayton Ridge High Schoolers get this opportunity through individual and large-group speech. Speech competitions provide an outlet for a wide variety of interests, and unlike many extra curricular activities, allow students to determine their individual level of commitment. 

Speech competitions are well underway at Clayton Ridge. Practices began just after Thanksgiving, and 17 students participated in the State Large Group Speech Contest on Saturday, Feb. 8. 

“We have a young team this year,” said high school English instructor and speech coach Nicole Shaw. Participating students included junior Anna Berns and sophomores Claire Friday, Carrigan Moser, and Blake Bolsinger, who performed musical theater pieces; Rebecca Scherer, Maysie Scherer, and Josie Broxson, who presented an ensemble acting piece; and a five-minute film written, directed, performed, and edited by sophomores Isabella Berns, Noelle Hines, Kelly Hawkins, Rebecca Scherer, Jane Robinson, and Hailey Peterson. 

Sophomore Alex Simon received a Division I rating for his solo mime piece, performed to a contemporary dub-step song by violinist Lindsey Sterling. The techno tune created an ideal backdrop for Simon’s performance, which told the story of a robot coming to life in a laboratory. 

Speech isn’t always about speaking, as Simon proved at the contest. He was not allowed to talk, being judged on effective acting, creativity, body control, and movement, as well as ability to convey intended message. 

Each of the twenty-odd categories students can participate in has different judging criteria. Kalkidan Hefel, a junior at Clayton Ridge, gave a speech in the original oratory category at the individual speech conference event on Monday, Feb. 24. Contestants in that category have eight minutes to give an original speech for persuasion or inspiration, and are judged on their use of vocal technique, bodily activity, and projection of thought and emotion. “I have to speak clearly, give emotional expression, and stay strong,” said Hefel prior to her performance. "It's good experience for speaking in college." 

Senior Jessica Klein also competed in the original oratory category, speaking about gay rights. “I think what drew me in to the original oratory category is the fact that I can present a speech I wrote, and try to persuade my audience to see my point of view on an issue or topic. My strategy for delivering my speech to the judges is to really persuade them to be open minded and accept new viewpoints,” Klein said. 

“I try not to overwhelm them, but at the same time, I want them to be willing to devote time to practicing their pieces,” Shaw explained. Students sign up for one-on-one practices with Shaw before or after school. They are required to practice at least once per week, and are allowed to sign up for as many slots as they feel necessary. Shaw is a certified judge, and she uses an official ballot to score students during each practice session. She gives them feedback afterward, and students decide how to move forward. “It’s very self-driven,” said Shaw.

Fifteen students prepared pieces for individual contests, which will conclude with the all-state contest in Cedar Falls on March 31. In addition to original oratory, Clayton Ridge students will also participate in acting, readings of poetry and prose, after-dinner speaking, and expository address, a six-minute speech including audio and visual aids. 

Sophomore Dustin Kelly competed in the radio news-announcing category. Thirty minutes before performing, Kelly was given a wire copy of international, national, and state news, weather, sports, and a commercial. The competition requires participants to individually edit and arrange material; then present the news to a group of judges who do not see the participant. During the performance, a flash news announcement will be handed to the participant, who must incorporate it immediately. 

Junior Anna Berns stated, "Speech is a great way to learn how to accept criticism, meet others who have similar interests, and expand on creative arts in your own time."

The state individual speech contest is Saturday, March 15, at Starmont. A local performance is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Guttenberg multi-purpose room.

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